Abu Dhabi Showdown Week: Are the Red Hot Chili Peppers actually any good?

One thing's for sure, you can expect a set of back-to-back hits when the US band performs in the UAE capital this week

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, September 4. Courtesy Steve Keros
The Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, September 4. Courtesy Steve Keros

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have reached the promised land when it comes to musical success.

They have sold more than 80 million albums, released a string of successful singles in each of the three decades of their existence, continually played in arenas in front of a fiercely dedicated fan base and – with the exception of the chaotic early ’80s – the band’s members are all quiet family men.

In that sense, they have won the ultimate prize. They can essentially do what they want – like, say, performing a concert in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt earlier this year – and the fans will always be there in droves.

However, does that success mean they are actually any good? Rock ’n’ roll has a perverse history of bands finding success with music that can charitably be described as sub-par. Perhaps it was the collective sense of nihilism in the music industry at the time, but the 1990s – a period in which the RHCP found great success – was particularly filled with dodgy groups ruling the charts, such as Limp Bizkit and Live, to name just a couple.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed and such acts have either withered away or are languishing in the nostalgia circuit. The RHCP may have emerged from that era unscathed, but there is a sense that their reckoning may have begun. Over the past few years, a growing body of music criticism pondered if the group found success despite the quality of their output.

Critics bemoaned various aspects of their aesthetics, from their unconvincing hybrid of funk and metal, their ridiculous lyrics (Low brow is how/swimming in the sound/of bow wow wow from 1991’s Suck My Kiss, for example) to singer Anthony Keidis’s awful rapping (refer to previous example). A quick search online and you will find many lists on why the band is overrated.

“They make bad songs that sound bad,” one music magazine wrote in a particularly snarky article. But one thing that is agreed upon, however, is that the group has an uncanny ability to release hit singles.

Ever since 1991’s Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik, each of the RHCP’s albums were home to earworm hits that managed to overshadow the relatively lukewarm critical reaction (with the exception of 1999’s admittedly stellar Californication).

The boys have wised up to that fact. So, when they arrive at The Arena in Abu Dhabi on September 4, expect a night of back-to-back hits. With the exception of the energetic cover of The Stooges’s I Want to be Your Dog, the concert material should be relatively familiar to the most casual of rock radio listeners.

From the crowd-pleasing one-two opening punch of Can’t Stop and Fortune Faded, the group serviceably play all the hits with minimal fuss.

With Keidis not the most talkative frontman, a lot of visual action will be delivered by bassist Flea’s dervish-like stage movements and obscenely colourful baggy pants.

Expect a decent light show and, in true Abu Dhabi concert fashion, a firework display or exploding confetti at the end of the gig. No doubt the band will be watching all this unfold with satisfaction. That is the thing about standing on the top of the mountain, you can’t hear the critics.

More information on Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, which runs until Saturday September 7, is available on www.ADShowdownWeek.ae

Updated: September 4, 2019 03:48 PM

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